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Honduran Boy Admits Tale Was a Lie

June 30, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was an incredible story. It simply wasn’t true.

Thirteen-year-old Honduran native Edwin Sabillon had New Yorkers reaching for their handkerchiefs with a heartbreaking tale of how Hurricane Mitch had killed his family and how he had trekked 3,200 miles to New York to be with a father he’d never met.

When he arrived Sunday at LaGuardia Airport, there was a crowd anxious to help him. Hundreds of residents offered to donate gifts and clothes; some said they’d adopt him if his father didn’t appear.

But then the little boy with a sweet smile and a big imagination admitted to police Tuesday that his headline-grabbing story was just that _ a story.

Detectives interviewed the boy after his grandmother in Honduras told The Associated Press that the story Edwin had given authorities was false. His maternal grandmother told the AP that the boy’s mother is alive and his father is dead. She said he was a runaway.

Edwin admitted that he had lied, and that he knew his father was dead and his mother is alive, according to a police statement.

``I don’t know why he did this _ maybe because he wants to live in the United States,″ said Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez, 65, who lives in San Buenaventura, Honduras. ``He loves me, and I adore him.″

Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez said Edwin’s father, Grevis Sabillon, died of AIDS shortly after returning to Honduras from Miami last October. The boy’s mother lives in the northern Honduras industrial town of Choloma, but abandoned him when he was an infant, Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez said.

Edwin was living with an aunt in Miami but returned to Honduras when his father died, his grandmother said. In March, he left to live with one of two aunts in Hialeah, Fla.

Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez did not know how he got there, but guessed that he probably hitched rides on trucks. Police said she reported to Hialeah authorities on Thursday that Edwin had run away.

Police said Edwin went to a cafeteria in Miami on Saturday and told his tale to people who bought him a bus ticket to New York City. He arrived in New York on Sunday and took a cab to the airport.

When a concerned cabbie brought Edwin to police on Sunday, he told officers that his mother, brother and grandfather died in a mud slide last year when Hurricane Mitch pummeled Central America.

Edwin also said his father sent him $200 on May 19 and told him to meet him at LaGuardia on either June 25, 26 or 27, police said Monday.

``I will be wearing a white shirt, black pants, white sneakers and a black hat,″ Edwin said his father told him, according to police.

Before Edwin’s admission, New York police had spent Monday and Tuesday looking for his father. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urged him to come forward.

It was not clear what would happen to the boy, who is staying with a Spanish-speaking foster family in the city. Police Commissioner Howard Safir said the officers would continue to investigate.

Edwin’s grandmother said she just wants him to come home.

``I’ll put him in a reform school until he straightens out,″ she said.

___

Associated Press Writer Freddy Cuevas in San Buenaventura, Honduras, also contributed to this story.